Groupthink, Social Loafing, & Conflict From Diversity
The advantage of working in teams is that it provides more cognitive and creative capacity for problem solving. This advantage provides the benefit of sharing workloads, producing more effective solutions, and creating more efficient work processes. However, the disadvantage to working in teams is that it can have the exact opposite impact when the team is not properly designed. Teams that do not have strong communication tend to fall prey to groupthink in which the team members tend to fall behind one strong personality and merely agree with that person’s ideas rather than contributing (Engleberg & Wynn, 2012). Another negative aspect of team’s that occurs often in my workplace is social loafing. Individuals will wait to see other people’s work and then use this work to produce similar answers that are not unique. This is an issue because it defeats the point of the team process.
Another issue with teams results from diversity. While diversity can increase the effectiveness of teams, with out proper management it can devolve into conflict. Diverse viewpoints can just as easily lead to conflict and loss of productivity, usually caused by poor communication and lack of cultural awareness and empathy. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam performed a study involving 30,000 people and found that multiculturalism and diversity did not strengthen groups but instead eroded trust and social interaction. In this study, Dr. Putnam found,
…that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogeneous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings (Jonas, 2007).
This study shows that diversity can have negative impacts when it is not managed properly. In simple terms, sticking a group of diverse people together and calling it a team does not result in effective teamwork.
Engleberg, I. Wynn, D. (2012) Working in Groups: Communication Principles and Strategies 6 Edition Pearson
Jonas, M. (2007) The downside of diversity. The New York Times